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Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Body found in bay may be missing fisherman

Summa missing since Jan. 13; autopsy under way to determine identity, cause of death

By Sara Lee Fernandez

George Gongora/Caller-Times
Fire department Capt. Lee Rogers (left) rushes to launch a fire and rescue boat on Monday. The crew hit the waters of Nueces Bay after a fisherman, Phillip Lara, reported seeing a floating body. The body was recovered and brought to shore in about an hour.
Commercial fishermen in Nueces Bay found the body of a man Monday who some believe may be that of a 29-year-old fisherman missing since Jan. 13.
   At about 3 p.m., Phillip Lara of Bay King, a bait shop and seafood company on Corpus Christi Beach, was throwing out trout lines with a co-worker about a mile out in the bay when they spotted a floating body. Lara said they returned to shore and called authorities from the Nueces Bay Bait and Tackle shop right away.
   Several people, including Lara, believe the man found was Steve Summa, who has been missing since a 14-foot aluminum boat capsized more than two weeks ago, but authorities haven't released the identity of the body.
   "Right now we are not even speculating," said Lt. Roger Garcia of the Corpus Christi Police Department.
George Gongora/Caller-Times
Chief Medical Investigator Ric Ortiz (left) consoles the family of missing fisherman Steve Summa after a body was pulled from Nueces Bay.

   Nueces County Medical Examiner Dr. Lloyd White said his office will examine the body to establish a cause of death and the man's identity.
   Lara said Summa was a customer and that he had taken Summa's uncle out on the bay to search for Summa's body on Friday and Saturday.
   "We thought we found him twice Saturday," Lara said, adding that they had stopped searching for a few days to give Summa's family a rest.
   "I have personally been praying every day for the ability to find him. . . . I even called my priest," he said. "I wanted to find him. I want this to be over for the family."
   The Coast Guard had looked for Summa for two days before ending its search in the bay, which is about 2.5 miles wide and 5 miles long.
George Gongora/Caller-Times
Rescue workers mill along the bay's shores while waiting for the recovery of a floating body. Steve Summa's aunt, Alice Perez, believes the body is that of her nephew.

   Christopher Cantu was fishing with Summa when the boat capsized. Cantu has said he and Summa got separated when they tried to swim for shore, police said.
   Another fisherman rescued Cantu from the 55-degree water an hour after the accident.
   At about 5:30 p.m. Monday, Lara took two Corpus Christi firefighters out on his boat and other firefighters, who are a part of the fire department's search and rescue boat team, also joined the search. The body was found and brought to shore about an hour later. Alice Perez, Summa's aunt, said she received a call that a man's body had been found and believes it may be her nephew because Lara told her he recognized Summa.
   "We came as soon as we heard," said Perez, who wasn't allowed to see the body at the scene.
   "We have been praying for God to surface his body," she said. "Our prayers are answered. I knew God wouldn't let us down.
   Perez said the family wants to have services for him.
   "(This) will give us peace," she said. "We won't have to be looking at the water wondering."

Staff writer Sara Lee Fernandez can be reached at 886-3767 or by e-mail

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